Government advice weak on anti-LGBT+ school protests

School’s Out & Peter Tatchell Foundation express concern

London, UK – 22 October 2019


The Department for Education (DfE) has offered inadequate advice to schools, in the wake of protests against LGBT-inclusive lessons:

Primary school disruption over LGBT teaching / Relationships Education Advice for Local Authorities on steps to manage issues

While it does contain some useful ideas and strategies, ultimately the advice is inadequate. It fails to address key issues and we believe it was a lost opportunity to help resolve the crisis. Specifically, we are surprised that:

1) We and others were not consulted before it was sent out, which would have been appropriate given our respective expertise in education, hate crime and countering hateful extremism
2) That the DfE did not use their own expert group convened to help on the guidance
3) That though they offer a link to the information about parents having no veto over the lessons it is not in the main text and could be easily missed
4) That there is no mention of the current legislation that schools are bound by, such as the Equality Act and the Public Sector Duty, and which would be useful for schools to quote when discussing the issues with parents

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Revd Stephen Terry, said:
“The Department for Education is continuing to send out a contradictory message that teaching about LGBT people in Relationships Education in primary schools is up to individual schools, but also that schools must take into account the religious background of pupils. This continues to send out a signal that schools should seek accommodation with families who seek to justify homophobic behaviour and attitudes on the grounds of the supposed teachings of their faith.”

We note that the recent report on hateful extremism by the Commission for Countering Extremism documented what has been happening in Birmingham outside Anderton Park school and the way it is being exploited and manipulated by Islamist extremists:

The Commission is now calling for an “urgent response” from the government, and “a total overhaul” of its strategy on extremism. We back their call. See:

While the DfE guidance contains some useful content, it is hardly a total overhaul.
We call on the DfE to be crystal clear that all schools must educate all students on LGBT+ issues and respect, in order to adhere to the Equality Act 2010, and that while schools are encouraged to consult with parents the school has the final say on its curriculum.

We urge the police and CPS to be more proactive in dealing with the physical and online threats. Homophobic and anti-Muslim hate crime in the areas where the protests have been active is alarming and the lack of serious criminal justice response does nothing to lessen the tensions. Indeed, it colludes with prejudice.

The LGBT+ lessons are vital to support LGBT+ pupils and their families and to combat the bullying that blights the lives of 45% of LGBT+ school children. We do not believe that any loving parent would want their children, or other children, to suffer prejudice, ostracism, discrimination or hate crime.